There is a new flu-like infection from China causing cough, fever, generalize aches, shortness of breath, and on occasion pneumonia. The symptoms can be severe resulting in a 3% death rate among those infected with the virus. It is acquired when a nearby person coughs releasing infectious viruses into the air. The most dangerous zone for acquisition of the infection is within 6 feet of an affected person. When released into the air, the virus can land on one’s nose, mouth, and eyes. It is through these sites that the virus gains access to the body. Following an exposure, one can begin to show symptoms within 5 days. It appears infected people may shed the virus and infect others even before becoming symptomatic. If so then, airport screening for fever and cough will miss those who are early in the course of the disease.
The use of face mask is paramount for limiting the spread of the disease. The mask should cover the affected person’s mouth and nose. Those exposed to an affected person should also wear a face mask. The mask should cover one’s mouth and nose and ideally should have a visor to protect our eyes. In the absence of a visor, we should use glasses. We must cover our mouths with our inner elbow when coughing. We must also avoid coughing into our hands as we use handshakes to greet others.
In resource limited environments, a thick piece of cloth may be used as a face mask, but the efficacy of this is to our knowledge unstudied. Nonetheless, doing so may help to create a barrier for preventing aerosolized viruses from dispersing in the air. After acquiring the virus, should the person survive, they generally stop shedding viruses within 14 days. This underlies the rational for isolating those suspected to be infected for 14 days.
Although this virus appears to have arisen in China, it represents a health threat to the entire global community. China is a populous country and is one of the world’s leading economies. As such, there is much traffic to and from China and this facilitates viral spread. As a result, no matter where one resides, one should be cautious and take proper precautions to help protect people everywhere.
The corona virus of 2019 is a new virus. New diseases arise because viruses and bacteria can undergo change in the composition of their bodies when they reproduce. This change is the reason why new disease arise from time to time. Every time a virus multiplies, it is at risk for making errors in reading its genetic code. These errors result in changes in the body structure of the virus making it infect its subjects in a novel way and that creates new diseases. With that understanding, once the virus was identified in China in December of 2019, biologists began sequencing it’s genome to determine which existing virus gave rise to it.
In December 2019, the first known people to be infected with this new illness were identified in the city of Wahun, China. The disease mostly affected people who had visited a fish market in the city. Among 9 of the first people affected, 8 had visited the fish market and the ninth lived in close proximity to the fish market. All 9 were shown to have the same virus. We describe the virus as the same because the isolated viruses were 99% identical in their genetic sequences. Considering that viruses continually develop new mutations, these viruses were remarkably similar in all nine people. That similarity indicates that the virus has not had enough time to mutate and change. For that reason, we know that the virus has not been around for long. With time, the virus will continue to change and in so doing it can even become more potent. This fear is the reason why we must continually monitor the world for the emergence of new virus and isolate those infected to prevent viral dissemination. Without isolating those infected, the new corona virus of 2019 will spread and a greater variety of this viruses will emerge making treatment potentially more difficult.
The Haitian government recently applied the principle of isolation when they quarantined a group of people arriving from China to Port-au- Prince on January 31, 2020. The Haitian government isolated the people who were on board the airplane and arranged for them to go to another country with more resources to address the needs of passengers. Toward the end of the 19th century, President Hyppolite had taken similar measures to prevent the cholera bacteria from being introduced to Haiti.
We know that people first acquired the novel corona virus of 2019 in a fish market in Wahun China. However, the roots of this virus reach beyond the confines of the fish market. The virus is 88% similar to a virus that infects bats. Since bats were not sold in the fish market and because the corona bat virus does not infect humans, it appears that the virus infected another animal first where it mutated to become capable of infecting humans. In general, corona viruses are known to be capable of infecting mammals like dogs, cats, camels, pigs and mice. The fish market also sold red meat. It is possible that the virus was in one of the mammalian meat sold at the fish market.
The novel corona virus is different from the more common corona viruses that are capable of infecting people. This new virus is more effective at causing pneumonia and is a greater threat to our lives. These characteristics make the virus different enough from other corona viruses to be considered a new virus. As already said, from time to time, new viruses arise. In 2018, there was a new corona virus that cause diarrhea in dogs, but that virus did not infect humans. Currently, in addition to the novel corona virus of 2019, there are 6 other corona viruses that infect our lungs, liver, brain, and intestines.
As a result of ongoing mutations, in 2002 there was a new corona virus called SARS that caused severe flu like symptoms. This virus was 79% similar to the corona virus infecting bats. The corona SARS infection infected 8000 people in 37 countries and killed 774 people. Later in 2012 a Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) arose and infected nearly 2494 people and killed 858. MERS was 50% similar in its genetic code to the bat virus.
Past experience with corona viruses makes us wary of the potential lethality of new corona viruses. As compared to the MERS virus which is more lethal than the new corona virus of 2019, the new virus appears to more easily infect people. In less than 2 months since the epidemic began, it has already infected 20,000 people in China alone and has killed 494. We can all do our part to limit the spread of the infection. We should cover our mouths, noses, and wear eye protection when caring for those infected. People with the infection can also limit the spread of the infection by using a mask to cover their mouths and noses. Hand washing is also hugely important. We must wash our hands before touching our mouths, eyes, and noses so that we diminish the chance to introduce the new infection into our bodies.